Guys, we need to talk. We need to talk about the wounded soldiers you leave lying around after you’ve paid your bar tab and have left said bar. You know what I’m referring to: the half-drunk beers you, for some reason unbeknownst to me, have opted not to finish. It’s not cool. Some might even call it alcohol abuse.
Maybe it’s a Tuesday night and you’ve got an early morning meeting. Maybe you’ve been subjected to your buddy’s breakup tirade and can’t bear to listen to it much longer. Maybe you’re bored of pulling teeth on a miserable date. Maybe you’re just a Browns fan and know you’re not going to miss much if you call it an early night. Cool. Go home, dude. But first? Drink your damn beer.
I recently had the chance to scope out Heineken’s Zoeterwoude Brewery just outside of Amsterdam, where I learned a bit about just how much goes into making that beer you ordered to drink. So here are four reasons why I’ll go ahead and say it’s super lame of you to not do just that.
1. It took a lot of time to brew you that beer.
Beer has a long history—it’s been said that it dates back to the dawn of cereal agriculture and its onset is loosely pinpointed to ancient Mesopotamia, the region of southwest Asia currently occupied by Iraq. Today, there are innumerable types of beers brewed around the world, but there’s one thing they all have in common: Brewing doesn’t happen overnight.
For example, it takes 15 years, experience in two breweries and extensive training for Heineken’s master brewers to even get started. And when they finally get to brewing, it takes 28 days—twice as long as the average beer.
“The most important factor to me as a master brewer is making sure each and every bottle has the same perfectly balanced taste, no matter where in world you drink it,” Willem van Waesberghe, global Heineken master brewer, says. “Brewing was a family affair for me, as my father worked in the brewing trade, and I continued on that path. Some can say, ‘It’s only beer!’ But we pour our hearts into every batch brewed, so it’s a personal matter that we take very seriously.”
2. It took a lot of effort to brew you that beer.
If brewing beer was easy, everyone would do it. Regardless of the beer you prefer, it probably took a lot of work to get the flavor profiles that draw you to it.
For Heineken, for example, there’s a lot that goes into the actual brewing process—milling malt, mixing brewing water, boiling wort, adding hops, separating liquids, adding A-yeast, turning sugars.
“There are a lot of technical nuances to brewing that make brewing a lager extremely difficult,” van Waesberghe explains. “Brewing isn’t easy, but we like to say the best things in life are worth waiting for… After 28 days, the color and flavor are at their very best, all natural brewing and fermenting processes are complete, and the brew is bottled, canned or kegged. It’s a process that’s longer than most.”
3. It took a lot of brainpower to brew you that beer.
Climates vary around the world, which means that, wherever your beer is brewed, experts have to adapt. Heineken’s recipe is 144 years old; it’s been unchanged since 1873. It’s up to the brewmasters and master brewers to ensure they’re creating the same taste every time.
As Jan-Maarten Geertman, manager of product and process research, says: “I spend almost all my time on research… My time in the pilot plant is spent discussing the nitty gritty details with our operator team—getting feedback on their observations, making sure the right yeast is used and that samples are properly registered for analysis. Recipes are prepared digitally, after which the pilot brewery team will carry out the experiments. Then, samples are analyzed by our QA/QC department.”
For each fermentation in the pilot plant, Geertman receives an interpretation of hundreds of values that showcase different attributes like flavor compounds, yeast concentration, wort components, etc. Reviewing it all is very time consuming—and probably confusing AF.
4. It took a lot of hands to serve you that beer.
You owe it to more than just your bartender for giving you that beer. It could have been brewed thousands of miles away, and it didn’t click its heels three times to find you. There are people responsible for packaging it, shipping it and distributing it, too.
Once Heineken beer is packaged in a 40-foot container and ready to leave the brewery in Zoeterwoude, it’s transported by barge to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and sets sail for some of the 192 countries where it is served. Over the course of the next few days, the beer heads to many distributors, then to retailer distribution centers, where it’s sent to retail accounts and stocked on shelves or at bars and restaurants.
Approximately 25 million Heinekens are served each day around the world. And 85,000 people employed with Heineken are responsible for ensuring that all of those beers make for a darn good time.
So, in case it’s not yet clear… finish your damn beer.